2 Jul 2010

Gillard backs John Howard's bid for top cricket job

6:00 pm on 2 July 2010

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has strongly backed John Howard's bid for the vice-presidency of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The former Liberal prime minister says he is not planning to withdraw his nomination for the position, despite its being knocked back by the board.

The nomination was rejected at an ICC meeting in Singapore. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa reportedly voted against him; only Australia, New Zealand and England supported him.

The ABC reports that Ms Gillard told Fairfax Radio she supports Mr Howard's bid.

"John Howard [is a] passionate, passionate cricket fan," she said. "I share some of the concerns he's voiced publicly about the kind of factors that are influencing this decision so I'd be very happy to offer full support for John Howard to get this role."

Scornful Indian media comments

Indian government minister Sharad Pawar, who is settling in as the new ICC president, denies politics played any part in Mr Howard's rejection.

But there is still no official explanation why the ICC voted the way it did.

Mr Howard's refusal to step down as nominee has drawn a furious response from sections of the Indian media. A presenter on the TV news channel Times Now, for instance, did not mince his words.

"Why should a museum piece, a symbol of the black-white divide, dare or dream of entering world cricket?" Arnab Goswami said.

Australia itself called racist

Mr Howard's past views on immigration have been brought into the debate, and newspaper columnist Suhel Seth has gone further and accused Australia of being a racist country.

Mr Seth believes England, Australia and New Zealand have not come to terms with India's rise as a world cricketing power.

Former Indian cricket captain Bishan Singh Bedi says, however, that Indians need to look at themselves before calling others racist. The way in which the nomination was rejected was crude, he says, and may have harmed the game.